A combination of two already approved drugs can cause cancer cells to develop into harmless fat cells, according to new research from scientists at the University of Basel in Switzerland.
One agent, rosiglitazone, is used in type 2 diabetes and increases insulin sensitivity.
It binds to receptors in the fat tissue and helps the fat cells mature. The other drug, -trametinib, inhibits the growth of cancer cells.
The combination has been tested on mice with human breast cancer cell tumors implanted in breast fat.
A tumor spreads by releasing cells to the blood so that they can form new tumors elsewhere, metastases.
Cancer cells become young again
However, to be able to leave the original tumor, these cells must change.
In fact, they rejuvenate by going back to an earlier cell stage.
Medications convert new cancer cells into fat cells
The combination of two known drugs ensures that tumors cannot spread. New cancer cells are now developing into fat cells.
The cancer cells can be seen as green spots on the surface of a tumor.
After the treatment, the cancer cells have changed to fat cells (brown).
At this stage the cells are more influenceable and can develop in multiple directions.
Under the influence of the combination of medicines, they grow into fat cells instead of cancer cells, which stops the metastasis.
Cancer does not spread any further
In the mice, the cancer no longer spread through the treatment and the original tumor became smaller.
As a next step, the researchers want to find out whether the treatment is also effective in other forms of cancer, and how the new treatment works in combination with chemotherapy.